Cackling hens and whining hogs

More from the immortal John Clare, some of whose poems are described as  ‘poems of celebration and also poems of loss – actual or threatened‘. John had a tragic life, he was a genius but died in poverty and in an asylum at the age of seventy-one in 1864.

His ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’, a great poem celebrating the farming year brings the past to life and evokes memories for people who have known the countryside in the years since he wrote it in the 1820’s; my mother and her sisters grew up in the country in the 1930’s, a hundred years later, and much of what he describes would have been familiar to them.  The poem is not just evocative, it is also a wonderful piece of social history, giving s a glimpse into past lives.

Here is another extract from September

None but imprison’d childern now
Are seen where dames with angry brow
Threaten each younker to his seat
That thro’ the school door eyes the street
Or from his horn book turns away
To mourn for liberty and play
Loud are the mornings early sounds
That farm and cottage yard surrounds
The creaking noise of opening gate
And clanking pumps where boys await
With idle motion to supply
The thirst of cattle crowding bye
The low of cows and bark of dogs
And cackling hens and wineing hogs
Swell high-while at the noise awoke
Old goody seeks her milking cloak
And hastens out to milk the cow
And fill the troughs to feed the sow
Or seeking old hens laid astray
Or from young chickens drives away
The circling kite that round them flyes
Waiting the chance to seize the prize
Hogs trye thro gates the street to gain
And steal into the fields of grain
From nights dull prison comes the duck
Waddling eager thro the muck
Squeezing thro the orchard pales
Where mornings bounty rarely fails
Eager gobbling as they pass
Dew worms thro the padded grass
Where blushing apples round and red
Load down the boughs and pat the head
Of longing maid that hither goes
To hang on lines the drying cloaths
Who views them oft with tempted eye
And steals one as she passes bye

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